I wasn’t planning to be writing about Day 2 of my trip, because it was relatively normal, for me at least. It entailed, first of all, meeting a jaunty middle-aged American jazz musician who had just done a gig in Lyon as we stood first for two hours in a line to get screened at Charles de Gaulle airport and then in line for 2 hours to board the plane, as well as waited for 3 hours in the plane on the tarmac since due to the late boarding we had missed our take-off slot.
Then it turned out that I was seated next to a rather large lady who was about to spill over into my seat, but I forgave her the fact that she was encroaching on my personal space, because she was quite a character and every other word she spoke was in bold italics. You know what kind of person I mean.
The lady was about 50, dressed very elegantly, bedecked in gold jewellery, arrayed in dark purple, and with very imposing high heels. She thanked the air flight attendant profusely for showing her to her seat, and then took out her cell phone to make a call.
“Hi, darling, it’s Olga. Yes, honey dear, I am on the plane. It is perhaps not so very comfortable as I am used to, you know, but I am so happy. Yes, baby, I am so very very happy to be on this plane, and you know, we will be taking off soon! It is so incredible. I cannot wait to see you. And how are you, my darling angel? Oh! I am disturbing you. You are at dinner with Fred, my love? Give him a biiiiiiiiig big kiss from me and tell him I wish him a wonderful, wonderful dinner. I love you so very, very much and I cannot wait to see you.”
A legitimate phone call, I dare say. Except she made about 10 of the same kind of phone calls within the next half hour, liberally sprinkling her conversations with her friends? grandchildren? ex-boyfriends? with darling angels and I am so very, very happy that I will see you! Sounded like she was going to have a pretty packed, and emotional, agenda on landing at JFK.
So, as I was saying, the flight was fairly normal.
I cut down on my usual manic watching of Cold Case (for some odd reason, this is my preferred plane TV fare) and instead tried to sleep through the 9-hour flight, since I knew that 3 hours’ delay would definitely have me miss my connection from JFK to Buffalo, which was likely the last of the day. Sleeping proved difficult, because although I profited from the advantages of the exit row in having space to stretch my legs, I also had to suffer through the disadvantages of the exit row, which included space where I should have been able to stretch out my legs, but someone else was standing.
It was a girl in a white nightgown and one of those Russian beaver hats (I’m saying Russian beaver hat because it seems to be made out of beavers and I’ve only ever seen it worn by Russians, but I’m sure there is some other proper name for it) who was talking in a VERY animated and earplug-resistant manner to a young man dressed all in black who had a very long ponytail. I have no idea why she was parading around in a see-through, sleeveless nightgown (possibly it was for the benefit of the man with the ponytail), because it was rather cold, as her hat and Uggs demonstrated. However, I did learn practically everything else about her – the rationale for her nail polish color, why her life choices were so difficult and what she was going to do in New York City.
She explained all of the above very earnestly to the man with the ponytail over the course of about 2 hours, standing in what other people mistakenly took to be the line to the toilet, but wasn’t, because the toilet wasn’t actually working. She was unraveling a very, very long piece of leather which was wrapped around his arm, from his wrist to his elbow. Being the nice person that I try to be, even on delayed transatlantic flights which I know are going to result in my spending a night at the airport, I decided I would let their romance blossom and only ask them nicely to perhaps tone their voices down once she was done with the leather string. Obviously she couldn’t actually do the unraveling in the cabin, where all the lights were off.
But then, once she was done unraveling the string, she started to tie it again, and after half an hour of this nonsense, I took off my Air France eye mask, took out my earplugs, and gave the couple The Look.
I had been thoroughly and intensively trained in The Look by my cousin who had mastered it to such perfection on public transport that she could get any insistent man, annoying giggling woman or pouting child to go away or quiet down by a simple, majestic sweep of the head and focusing of her blue eyes on the unsuspecting culprit. She had taken great pains to train me in The Look, which, she said, was the basis of success and safety for all single women travelers and even more effective than wearing a fake gold wedding ring.
I must have been a poor student, or maybe the effectiveness of my regard was dulled by the fact that, being shortsighted and not having my glasses on hand, I wasn’t really able to direct it very precisely. Also, the process of tying on the string and the accompanying conversation proved more riveting than I thought. It was only after another half hour, when my tired self had given up, that I awoke to find my head on Olga’s shoulder, and the space where the couple had conducted their transatlantic flirtation, empty.
I saw them again, at the conveyor belt. She was standing by a cart and imperiously pointing at a leather suitcase, as he stood poised, flexing his muscles and ready for luggage-lifting action.
Dear readers, there was someone that found romance on board, but it was not me.
I was about to write off the romantic potential of overseas travel yet again as I drearily collected my two trusty suitcases from the conveyor belt and looked at the Connecting Flights screen to confirm what I had already suspected, namely, that I had missed the last flight out of JFK. But then I went to the Air France ticket counter line to
sob and snivel to be rebooked for the next flight and could they please give me some restaurant vouchers because it really isn’t my fault that I have been travelling for the past 36 hours demand, in an assertive manner, that my rights as an air travel passenger be respected according to the IATA convention. (It’s a good trick taught to me by a friend who used to work for a call center of one of the major airlines).
But then I saw what my tired eyes had missed during the 9-hour flight from Paris. A mere 2 yards in front of me stood a tall, handsome, blond-haired man who was looking at my overloaded luggage cart – or perhaps at me? – with a very, very affable smile, and I thought, “Dear Self, perhaps this time…”